levet wins french open

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Four years after fearing vertigo might end his career, Thomas Levet has hit a new high and intends to enjoy every minute of it.

The 42-year-old from Paris first tried to win the French Open 25 years ago and finally did it when ranked 352nd in the world.

It came in nail-biting fashion on the Golf National course near the capital where the 2018 Ryder Cup match will be played, and where many of the home fans will now hope that Levet captains Europe.

He was one of the front men for their successful bid, was a member of the winning side in 2004 and is his country's most successful European Tour player with six wins.

"The way it went was just like a dream," Levet said after beating England's Mark Foster and Dane Thorbjorn Olesen by a shot.

The nightmare of his vertigo began in 2006 when he was driving in New York.

"I put the car into reverse, looked to see if there was anyone behind and it just kicked off," he said.

"I felt as though I was in a washing machine for a whole five minutes. I got out of the car and didn't know my name, I couldn't even walk straight."

It continued for months and resulted in him losing his cards on both the European and American circuits, but gradually his condition improved - and so did his golf.

Levet, who lost a five-hole play-off for the 2002 Open to Ernie Els, came from three behind to take a first prize of more than £442,000.

Foster had shared the overnight lead with compatriot James Morrison, but they shot 74 and 78 respectively, while Scot Richie Ramsay, one behind with four to play, took a triple-bogey seven on the 15th and came joint fifth.

Olesen missed a par putt of under four feet on the final green and Foster, needing a 20-footer to force a play-off, left it short.

It was the second week running the Worksop player, without a victory since the start of 2003, had failed to hang onto the 54-hole lead.

He did not have a birdie all day, double-bogeying the 12th and three-putting the 13th, and even missed out on an Open Championship place as well because Olesen had the higher world ranking.

Levet, who qualified for Sandwich last month, joins Jean-Francois Remesy - champion in 2004 and 2005 - as the only home players to have lifted the trophy since 1969.

"I had everyone behind me, basically the same as a Ryder Cup, and it was the same adrenaline rush," he added.

"I was reaching distances I've never reached before, but with experience I knew it was going to happen.

"The atmosphere was great. I felt like one of the Tour de France riders climbing a mountain.

"It was just crazy. The people were going 'Allez, allez, allez' and some of them going 'Captain, captain'."

He will have to wait a few years to see if that dream comes true, but becoming French Open champion will have done his chances no harm.